Thursday, December 4, 2014


Let's start with this undisputable fact. The decision the Braves faced wasn't to keep Jason Heyward and get a compensation draft choice vs. getting Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, and signing Nick Markakis. This makes John Hart's decision-making look better, but lumping Markakis into that isn't fair. Both deals should be looked at separately for what they do for the club. Theoretically, you can make the argument that they should be tied together because without trading Heyward, the signing wouldn't happen, but that might not be true since the Braves, even after replacing Heyward, may still deal their other corner outfielder, Justin Upton.

So, let's delve deeper into the signing of Markakis. It sucks.

While many have continued to praise this signing, it's a miserable investment for Atlanta and that's with the acceptance that Markakis probably won't be overpaid over the lifetime of the contract. If 1 fWAR is worth  $7 million this offseason, Markakis would simply have to [produce 6 to 7 fWAR to fulfill his value to the Braves. Even if you think Markakis isn't worth the investment, $44M over four seasons is not an unreasonable sum for someone who posted 5.8 fWAR over the last four seasons and was hurt in one of those years (plus posted a 0.0 fWAR in an entire 700 PA season, which still boggles my mind).

And no, David O'Brien, fWAR shouldn't account for everything. We use it as a simple comparison tool. Over the last two completely healthy seasons, years where Markakis has came to the plate at least 700 times, and two full years since his hamate bone fracture in 2012, Markakis' offensive skills come out in full sad detail. Let me start by saying 122 players qualify for this two year comparison. Markakis ranks as such: 114th in isolated power (.098), 98th in wOBA (.312), and 97th in RC+ (97).

The majority of players that consistently rank below Markakis in those three good stats for comparing offense are players whose value likes in defense like Andrelton Simmons, Gerardo Parra, and Zack Cozart. And yet, we have continuously been told about Markakis's defensive capabilities. After all, we are talking about a two time Gold Glove winner, including last year. So the argument has been thrown around that the Braves replaced a Gold Glove winner with a Gold Glove winner. That argument is correct. However, that argument ignores that Gold Glove choices aren't always justified by the numbers. In 2012, Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen robbed the Braves of an All Gold Glove outfield, awards that should have gone to Martin Prado and Michael Bourn. As Joe Posnaski points out, Gold Gloves have come some way, but they still appear to award guys based on their hitting ability.

That would explain how Markakis has two of the awards because the defensive metrics do not support him. His defense reminds me of what people say about his new teammate Freddie Freeman. Sure-handed and with a plus arm for his position, Markakis, like Freeman, lack one important ability. Range. Markakis has always been below average when it comes to range in right field (often nearing the category of awful). You can limit that affect through defensive shifts and your pitchers pitching to the defensive alignment, but there will almost certainly be times where his range shows up. Another Braves comparison on defense might be the guy whose batted ball was the last chance Markakis was credited an error on. Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy had his pluses...notably his tremendous arm...but his range was poor. He won a Gold Glove, though. Because...reasons.

This signing would look a good deal better as a two-year contract, but the Braves gave him four years. Like they gave Derek Lowe. You might recall Lowe's time in Atlanta, though if you've blocked it out, I can't blame you. Lowe was a limited pitcher who earned more praise from the media than from sabermetric outlets, though there were fewer voices on the latter front at the time. While one can (and has) argue(d) that Lowe's signing was out of desperation and giving him four years was a response to a need to sign someone after missing out on other targets, I believe giving a guy four years when he's coming off the two worst power seasons of his career and doesn't stand a high chance of improving is fairly desperate.

Now, maybe Markakis is a wonderful leader. After all, some Baltimore Orioles are upset that their team let him go. I understand the argument that over a 162 game season, leadership does have value and the Braves may have lost leadership over the last three years with departures of Chipper Jones, Prado, Brian McCann, David Ross, and Eric Hinske. I'm not against grabbing a player with leadership skills. But let's not pay for it.

Finally, the thing that strikes me about this signing is the disconnect between the more traditional baseball fan and the one that goes to fangraphs so often that Crome automatically assumes when you type "f," you are headed there instead of facebook. Mike Petriello wrote a great article yesterday ahead of the announced signing about this. Markakis was amazingly a highly sought after free agent despite being similar to Nori Aoki. This mentality was reinforced with social media announcements of praise along with blog posts from people I respect saying that this signing was a good one. To me, and people who think like me, the most we can say is that we are cautiously optimistic. Maybe Markakis's increase in range last year lasts. Maybe he plays so well in the first two years that the deal becomes a no brainer in terms of bang for buck. Maybe home cooking will do him some good. Maybe, if, possibly, if we get lucky...

But my realistic expectations are very low. This deal reeks of desperation. It's as if Hart can't decide between rebuilding and building for a 2015 where the Braves are competing. I'm rather curious as to where the direction is in the general manager's office, but then I remember that Hart was too good for that title. What's next? Trading Upton for three prospects and giving Jon Lester a six year deal?

My biggest worry this offseason was that the front office would half-ass a rebuild rather than full-ass. So far, my worry has intensified.

1 comment:

  1. "My biggest worry this offseason was that the front office would half-ass a rebuild rather than full-ass. So far, my worry has intensified."

    Exactly my feeling.